Sombre Libyans contemplate Gaddafi's future

Wed Jun 1, 2011 2:57pm EDT
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By Joseph Logan

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A chorus of white-clad girls, halos fixed to their heads and battery-powered candles clutched in their hands, sways in unison, then breaks into an off-key accompaniment of the 1980s anthem "We are the World."

Hours before the performance outside Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound, broadcast live on state television, a Tripoli resident renders a different verdict on the fate of the capital after ten weeks of Western bombing.

"We are finished," says a man who identifies himself as Hamid, previously a driver for a Turkish construction firm. One of the firm's expatriate employees -- now evacuated from Libya -- said he believed Hamid was an informant for Libyan intelligence.

"The letter is sent. It comes from the skies. We just don't know the date," said Hamid.

As a NATO-led air campaign pounds Tripoli under the rubric of crippling Gaddafi's war against rebels who have seized Libya's east and hold pockets near the capital, his opponents and some supporters are beginning to count aloud the Libyan leader's remaining days in power.

Sporadic bursts of nighttime small-arms fire outside the hotel where the Libyan government houses foreign media have drawn out into lengthy exchanges, at times capped by the thud of a heavier weapon.

Libyan officials who in previous weeks called those episodes displays of pro-Gaddafi jubilance now decline to discuss them.

In a district that rose against Gaddafi in February, residents say protesters ventured out again this week, drawing gunfire from security forces. Activists have circulated a video appearing to show protesters denouncing Gaddafi in that area.   Continued...

<p>A girl stands in the doorway of a home destroyed in battles between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi on Tripoli street in central Misrata May 29, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra</p>